March Trilogy

March, Books 1-3

by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

March Trilogy

Well, hmmm. How do we stay out of politics? How do we depoliticize the political? When Representative John Lewis (D-GA Fifth District) recently boycotted the presidential inauguration, Snotty Literati joined many others in checking out the books of this Civil Rights legend (Amazon sold out of some!). Lewis, working with two other talents, authored a series of three graphic novels which tell his story. In these three books, we cover an amazing amount of American history. In Book One, we are introduced to the principles of nonviolence and the drama of the lunch counter sit-ins. In Book Two, we witness the bravery of the Freedom Riders. In Book Three (winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, as well as the Coretta Scott King Author Award), voting rights are secured. In addition to John Lewis, others—including Bobby Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X—reveal the historic landscape of the Civil Rights Movement. We move from Jim Crow to the U.S. presidency.

Jennifer: I know you don’t like to get political (I do!); however, political circumstances resulted in our reading of these books—which I seriously think every teacher from maybe sixth grade on should get for their classroom. I personally need to say that reading these books makes President Trump’s Twitter hissy fit look positively absurd. I’m, like, if Rep. Lewis says, “Jump,” you should probably jump.

Lara: This will surprise you, Jennifer. I do like to get political. But I think it’s better to do it face-to-face and not through social media platforms or comment boards where faceless contributors lose out on the humanity that can come from face-to-face dialogue. That said, you are right. Politics brought us to John Lewis, and I am glad that it did. I am going to start by saying how embarrassed I am to not have known very much about Congressman Lewis, his story, and his SIGNIFICANT involvement in civil rights.

Jennifer: Well, you read. So now you know more. No embarrassment there.

One interesting thing to me was how organized and disciplined the Civil Rights Movement was. There were numerous groups simultaneously at work—the NAACP, SCLC, SNCC, etc.—and these groups were pretty hierarchical and philosophically trained in nonviolence. I think most of us understand a bit about MLK and Gandhi, but I found this part fascinating. In one image, Lewis says protestors were taught “how to disarm our attackers by connecting with their humanity.” A trainer says, “Maintain eye contact, John.” This protest movement was philosophically-sound and systematic, made for ultimate victory. The simple and true importance of eye contact.

Lara: Absolutely! If we base our impressions on what was being shown in the media, it looks completely chaotic—and it was when so many were violently engaging with SNCC (Lewis’s) organization. But the amount of planning, very mindful planning, and organization were left out of the story so many of us have heard. And it was essential to the success Lewis, Dr. King, and others brought forth for the Movement.

Jennifer: Yes. I loved these books. I found true wisdom here, and tons of hope. “No lie can live forever” is a refrain repeated throughout. His trip to Africa brings home Malcolm X’s understanding that there was universality in the African experience.  In one image, Lewis says,

“If there’s one thing I’ve believed my entire life, it’s taking a stand when it’s time to take a stand.”

The strong emphasis on the need for the movement to be integrated was stressed throughout. There were interesting character notes, too. We hear how Bobby Kennedy’s ability to change was appreciated, how his changeability affected policy. We find out about the time Lewis danced the night away with Shirley MacLaine. So many parts hit home.

Lara: And the pervasive message about persistence. At every turn, when government leaders kept asking the groups to be patient, and to refrain from marching or other action, Lewis and others continued to march, peacefully yet forcefully. It’s a great message to continue standing up for what you believe in.

Jennifer: (We’re actually freaking out in person about how Trump had the gall to insult this man, but we’ll give you decorum on paper.) Besides the discipline and organization of the Civil Rights Movement, another aspect really hit home for me. I “outed” myself as a Christian this election season (taking the unpopular evangelical position of being opposed to Trump)—which is not so favorable in writing circles. I was struck by how specifically and explicitly religious—Christian, actually—the Movement was. I’m wondering how this struck you, as one not-so-religiously-inclined?

Lara: While I may not be religiously inclined, I am a huge proponent and believer in equality for all. That’s what I think Christianity is, or should be about. And the goal of the movement was the same—equal rights for all.

Jennifer: Well, I’ll say on my own since I have the pulpit, so to speak, that I do think there are massive lessons for evangelicals here.

I thought there was a little irony in one scene, during which people accuse the SNCC of communism. I think I’ve heard that accusation myself! I was recently called a Commie—not sure why. I’m for some kinds of regulation? I support civil rights? Whatever. These books are shockingly relevant today. And I learned a lot. I still love MLK so much!

Lara: These books are hella relevant today. And I love that they were done in a graphic novel format because I think that (along with all the press Lewis has gotten recently) it will put this important history in more people’s hands—more young people’s hands. The drawings in these volumes illustrate volumes of emotion for the reader. It’s remarkable storytelling.

Jennifer: I’d say it’s a must-read for the mindful.

Lara: I also want to give props to Lewis’s childhood librarian, Ms. Harvey. In the wise words of President Lyndon Baines Johnson,

“Books and ideas are the most effective weapons against intolerance and ignorance.”

Congressman Lewis shows us that in spades.

Next Up!

We are taking a stroll with Kathleen Rooney’s Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk.

See you then, Snotties!


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